Lake Michigan Monster

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Lake Michigan Monster
"Loosely assembled from cardboard, string and panache." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

There's something lurking deep in the murky waters of Lake Michigan, something that has killed at least one man. Or so the sea captain says. If, indeed, sea captain he is. He acknowledges that he's prone to bouts of lying. He doesn't actually go to sea or have a ship to command but he dresses like a sea captain, from the uniform to the eyebrow make-up, and in the proud tradition of Captain Ahab, he has vowed vengeance on the beast that slew his father. But the truth is far murkier than even the dissembling captain has guessed and his crack team of sonar person, weapons expert and actual sailor may not be enough to see him through.

There's a creative enthusiasm about writer/director/star Ryland Brickson Cole Tews' d├ębut feature that's reminiscent of the early work of John Waters and the result is at least as anarchic. It's one of the cheapest films you're likely to see this year, though that shouldn't be equated with a lack of care. Some of the model work, which harks back to the silent era, is beautifully done. This is the sort of filmmaking that suggests anybody can join in but that, too, may be factually challenged. There's real skill lurking beneath the surface.

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Showing at the Fantasia International Film festival in Montreal, Lake Michigan Monster may have been filmed in Milwaukee but it has a very Canadian sensibility. Its humour isn't always enough to bear it up and there are places where it drags but if you allow it to get hold of you, you'll be laughing at unexpected things. There's a deep understanding of early cinema at its heart and a celebration of the spirit of adventure that once lay at the heart of every piece of big screen entertainment. It also has a capable cast who succeed in developing their characters and keeping thing interesting when it is at its most ridiculous.

Although the film begins with conversations in a small room followed by a trip to the beach where the captain hopes to lure the monster close so it can be shot, later scenes are more visually adventurous and make use of a variety of early special effects techniques assisted by modern technology, reminiscent of some of Jack McHenry's work in Here Comes Hell, though this film adopts a much sillier tone. There's some inventive stuff here and it livens up a story that might otherwise work just as well on stage.

This is a film that is most definitely not for everyone. Some people are likely to leave it furious and demanding their money back. Loosely assembled from cardboard, string and panache, it's a ripping yarn of the sort best suited to rum-soaked days in the company of old shipmates, but if you're looking for something a bit saltier than the average monster movie, it may well float your boat.

Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2019
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An eccentric ship captain and a crew of specialists plot revenge against a mysterious creature of the deep.

Director: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews

Writer: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews

Starring: Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, Erick West, Beulah Peters, Daniel Long, Wayne Tews

Year: 2018

Runtime: 78 minutes

Country: US


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